The product of a broken home in a rough suburb of Tampa, Florida, Jonah Sorrentino was born again at the age of 15, when a family member challenged the wayward teenager and fledgling rapper to take up Christ.
Pouring his faith into music, Sorrentino changed his performing name: "KJ" was an abbreviation of a previous alias, while "52," pronounced "five-two," referred to the Bible story in which Jesus fed a multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish. While still a teenager, Sorrentino worked in youth ministry at an inner-city church. He recorded a demo, but it wasn't until he and like-minded rapper Golden Child formed a duo, Sons of Intellect, that things began to move forward. Though the two weren't together for long, they made an album and performed throughout Florida, which encouraged Sorrentino to continue on his own. In 1988, he stepped down from his youth minister position to pursue his Christian rap dream as a solo artist.
A relationship with Gotee Records led to a deal with Essential, the label that released the debut KJ-52 full-length, 7th Avenue, in 2000. The LP featured collaborations with CCM heavy weights Cross Movement and Knowdaverbs. Extensive touring followed, and Sorrentino found he'd established himself as the Christian rapper he always felt he could be. In 2002, he began a long-term association with Tooth & Nail and dropped Collaborations, its title a reference to numerous contributions from guest artists including Ill Harmonics, Pillar, and Thousand Foot Krutch. The album's most interesting track was "Dear Slim," an open letter to Eminem that took issue with the Detroit star's extreme lyrics. A battle rap of sorts -- albeit a warm, fuzzy one -- the song encapsulated Sorrentino's conversational style, intricate wordplay, and devotion to the man upstairs.
Sorrentino became one of the most acclaimed and commercially successful rappers in Christian music. It's Pronounced "Five-Two" issued in 2003, was the first in a string of releases that hit Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart, and it won a Gospel Music Association Dove Award. Additional chart accolades and Dove acknowledgments followed with each addition to the KJ-52 discography. Over the course of a decade, Sorrentino delivered a new studio work every two or three years, including Behind the Musik (A Boy Named Jonah) in 2005, The Yearbook in 2007, Five-Two Television in 2009, Dangerous in 2012, and Mental in 2014. Throughout this period, Sorrentino appeared on tracks by well over a dozen fellow Christian artists, including tobyMac, Newsboys, and Canton Jones. His ninth proper album, Jonah, was released in 2017. ~ Johnny Loftus & Andy Kellman, Rovi